New York, NY — I borrowed this little gem from the bulletin board in my office. As usual, the Oatmeal says it all: In our rush to make every experience digital, we’ve created a new role for the tangible.

That breakthrough moment we’re all chasing – the one that changes behavior or earns new kinds of loyalty – may not come in the crowded inbox or on the quickly-read webpage. Instead, it may be the generous artifact or personal gift that creates a moment of human connection and appreciation.

Big brands have already begun using artifacts to create moments of loyalty-powering delight.

Annual holiday treats from Anthropologie (birthday card) and Makers Mark (Christmas gift) have earned untold sharing and loyalty from their customers.

MINI’s owner swag was a big part of reorienting its marketing efforts from all drivers to current customers. The little treats not only impressed owners, they created an exclusive club of insiders. MINI has also been a leader in making its mass communications more tangible and surprising in the physical space.

Abbott’s ongoing sampling program for moms has won new customers in the maternity ward and kept them well into their children’s middle school years.

But the power of print goes way beyond the marketing moment. It may actually help improve learning and recall.

In a recent issue of Scientific American, Ferris Jabr reported that reading is topographic. As you read something, you structure out its content in your mind. Jabr says you’re actually making a map of the meaning of the text.

The process is closely tied to the physical object you’re interacting with. You brain is plotting a journey with your eyes as you read through printed materials.

All the tactile factors – from the weight of a book in your right hand versus left hand as you move through it, the dog-ear on a page, etc. – inform that map. Screens don’t provide the same sense of anchoring because they have no cartographic clues that engage other parts of the brain.

Said even more briefly: Holding the information in your hands, holds it in your memory.

Which may be why I still remember the cover of Harriet the Spy that I read decades ago, but have no idea what the last three titles I read in iBooks are.

Posted by: Leigh Householder

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for shaping the company’s perspective on the next era of healthcare marketing. Through thought leadership, strategic innovation workshops and new products and capabilities, Leigh focuses on identifying marketing approaches that will fuel that new era and generate significant growth for clients. Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for over 17 years. She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she had several leadership roles at one of our agencies, GSW. There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business. Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes. A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice, Leigh also was recognized as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.